Sunday, 30 April 2017

Deal Town 4 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 130/16/1437 - Saturday, 29th April 2017 - Southern Counties East

Deal Town (2) 4 Philpott (pen) 4 Anderson 8 Adams 50 Reeves 77
Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Pinnock 46
Attendance: 207

Entrance: £4
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 108/8,985

This was probably a fitting end to Tunbridge Wells’ season, pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. A player light after just two minutes and a goal down from the resultant penalty, an uphill struggle ensued of which there could be only one winner.

This has been a season to forget for Tunbridge Wells’ loyal supporters who, as usual, followed their team to the East Kent coast in numbers and in adversity, with great humour.

Fearing another negative report to write, I approached the Wells’ supporters asking for positives to come out of a season in which they have flirted with the relegation places for long periods. Unfortunately, they could come up with very little on the playing side and this performance clearly illustrated why.

The first win of the season at Fisher in September was recalled coupled with the vocal support that greeted the victory. A memorable away day at Sheppey when 300-plus Islanders were out sung by the Wells fans and the fans getting behind the club and raising £4,000 through their Supporters Trust initiative all pointed that the fans had done their bit.

Relegation has been avoided with a couple of good results that lifted the club into the less choppy waters of lower mid-table but none more so than the three points that were eventually awarded to Tunbridge Wells following the early season abandonment of their game against Croydon. Richard Woodfield commented that “the (reasonably) good name of the club would have been trashed if decision had gone the other way. Momentous decision for the football authorities to, in effect, rule that a referee had totally lost the plot.”

The referee at this game, who went on to have a reasonably good game, took centre stage very early at The Charles Ground awarding Deal Town a penalty and sending off Perry Spackman after just two minutes. The decision to award the spot kick cannot be denied but the dismissal has to be questioned as Deal’s Jack Paxman was not heading in the direction of the goal. Ryan Philpott struck his penalty to the left of Steve Lawrence and when asked to re-take the kick as Spackman had not left the pitch, he stroked his second attempt into the same corner.

Unforgivable defending allowed the hosts a second goal after eight minutes. A free kick conceded on the right hand side was floated into the box by Joe Reeves to Joe Anderson who was allowed a free header from the edge of the six yard box.

Tunbridge Wells spent the rest of the half chasing shadows with James Pinnock stretching the Deal goalkeeper, James Tonkin just the once after 20 minutes.

After such an inept first period it came as something of a surprise as the visitors scored within a minute of the start of the second half. A defence-splitting pass from Josh Biddlecombe sent Pinnock clear. He decided not to take on the shot, but rounded the goalkeeper to score.

Any hope of a comeback was quickly dispelled four minutes later when a slick move down the right ended with Philpott setting up Dan Adams to score from close range.

Philpott brought a good diving save out of Lawrence, which at least brings me back to my “give me positives” survey, with Julian Fussell making the observation: “Steve Lawrence has been absolutely immense this season, he'll rightly romp the end of season awards and without him I dread to think where we would have ended up!"

To list the chances throughout the second half that were created by Deal would make depressing reading for Wells’ supporters. Eventually, after 77 minutes, they added a fourth when a corner from the left was headed back across the face of goal by Kane Smith to Joe Reeves who had time and space for an easy finish.

So sadly, another Tunbridge Wells game passes by with little positivity. As I made my way back to the car park, the songs from the South East Stand choir continued to ring around the Charles. They make do with a few beers and great comradeship; they deserve so much more from the pitch.

This was my first visit to Deal in the lifetime of this blog, what a little gem! Sadly, the old grandstand has disappeared for a modern construction but the clubhouse, the quaint dressing rooms building and tea in a proper mug add to is charm. Finally, what a pitch, some clubs, much higher up the pyramid, would die for a surface like this one pre-season let alone the final game.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Kingstonian U18 1 Tonbridge Angels U18 4

Match 129/16/1436 - Thursday, 27th April 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Kingstonian U18 (1) 1 Baker (o.g.) 2
Tonbridge Angels U18 (2) 4 Cussen 34 Chapman 44 Bray 47 Smith 90+1
Headcount: 50
Official attendance given as 23, no way!

Entrance: £4
Programme: Included
Mileage: 102/8,877
New Ground: 307

Championes, Championes rang around Banstead Athletic’s Merland Rise as Tonbridge Angels’ Under-18 side celebrated winning the Ryman Youth Eastern Division. A week previously they had looked on in despair as their Cup Final opponents, Whitehawk, celebrated in the same manner, now it was their turn.

And with the title win comes the opportunity to avenge that defeat as Whitehawk will visit Longmead Stadium on Tuesday evening for a play-off semi-final.

A damp, cold evening was ultimately brought to a memorable conclusion, but nobody was taking anything for granted as hosts and basement club, Kingstonian threatened to tear up the script for the evening.

Sid Sollis served out the last of his suspended games and the management team opted to go with two up front, Jack Cussen and Guy Taylor, to add the cutting edge.

The Angels suffered a setback in the minutes before kick-off when skipper Callum Adonis-Taylor reported feeling ill and needed to be replaced by Ryan Gallifant.

Perhaps this contributed to a disorganised opening 10 minutes in which Kingstonian scored and also had another couple of good chances that could have left the visitors with a mountain to climb.

With no team sheet for the hosts available I can only refer to the Kingstonian side by number.

After two minutes, a cross from the left brought a hasty clearance under pressure that only managed to strike the unwitting torso of Oliver Baker and rebound past a stranded Lewis Mitchell.

Encouraged by their early success, Mitchell had to make two more saves, one a plunging effort at his near post as Kingstonian looked to capitalise on their opening.

Tonbridge, in the meantime, were looking out of salts. Their passing, normally sharp was poor and service to the front two, who were also making ill-judged runs, was sparse.

When, after 17 minutes, Mitchell was once more brought into action it was time for somebody in a Tonbridge shirt to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Up stepped captain for the night, Tommy Chapman.

A free kick from the left from Chapman saw Liam Smith’s header deflected wide for a corner and the Angels finally showed signs of coming to the party.

Then, after 34 minutes, a defence splitting pass through the middle from Chapman sent Cussen clear to bury his opportunity into the bottom corner.

The Angels were now a different side and pulling all the strings. Jack Bray and Taylor had chances which they pulled wide before, on the stroke of half-time they received a free kick on the right hand side of the box, 20 yards from goal. Chapman drilled the free kick, low past the wall and into the corner to give Tonbridge a half-time lead.

Early second half success gave Tonbridge some breathing space as, after two minutes, another free kick, from who else but Chapman, was beautifully flighted towards the late run of Bray who stole in to head home.

One more goal could have made the second period a lot more comfortable for the Tonbridge support but, unfortunately, that was a long time coming as chances came and went with regular abandon.

The Kingstonian goalkeeper did well to save twice at the feet of Taylor whilst a header from Smith also went wide.

But, after 66 minutes, it was Kingstonian that had the opportunity to bring themselves right back into the game when they were awarded a penalty, seemingly for handball, that also brought a booking for Baker.

Mitchell judged correctly saving the well-struck spot kick low to his right.

Man of the Match Chapman hobbled from the pitch to be replaced by Jardell Conteh with 10 minutes remaining.

The party could begin in the first minute of added time when a cross from the left was bundled home by either Liam Smith or a defender but after the season the Tonbridge player has had who is going to deny him the final goal.

The final whistle saw the Tonbridge bench empty as they joined their team mates for the excited celebrations. This is the fourth successive year that this talented team have won their relative age group since coming together as 13-year-olds.

This was my first visit to Banstead Athletic which, I presume is perfectly adequate for the Combined Counties League. There is plenty of covered standing room with the main stand housing, I would guess 150 seats. The most striking feature would be the floodlight pylons which, once more guessing, double as mobile phone masts. The main gripe of the evening, though not directed at Banstead Athletic, but their tenants Kingstonian would be that £4 entry for an Under-18s game with no concessions is frankly a piss-take. No wonder the official attendance was only 23.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Thurrock 1 AFC Hornchurch 0

Match 128/16/1435 - Wednesday, 26th April 2017 - Ryman North Play-off Semi-Final

Thurrock (1) 1 Sutton 12
AFC Hornchurch (0) 0
Attendance: 481

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 80/8,775

Match Report

A second Ryman play-off game in a couple of days produced matches as different as chalk and cheese, whereas the previous evening's encounter was one of the best games I've seen this season, this one was dour. To add to an uncomfortable watch, I cannot ever remember being at a play-off game where it has been so cold.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Greenwich Borough 3 Corinthian Casuals 4

Match 127/16/1434 - Tuesday, 25th April 2017 - Ryman South Play-off Semi-Final

Greenwich Borough (2) 3 Eisa 4 Sweeney 34 Wilson 83
Corinthian Casuals (2) 4 Okojie 18 (pen), 76 Dillon 23 Maan 59
Attendance: 427

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 76/8,695

Match Report

Corinthian Casuals successfully overcame a number of hurdles to reach the Ryman League South Play-off Final. Their goalkeeper, and captain, Danny Bracken suffered a nightmare opening when, after less than four minutes, a speculative shot from Mohamed Eisa struck a divot to loop over his diving body giving the home side a dream start.

Having equalised from the penalty spot after 18 minutes, Casuals received a further setback when Coskum Ekin was shown a straight red card for a foul on Lewwis Spence three minutes later.

A breathless opening 20 minutes that was about to continue to a thrilling climax.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Gillingham 2 Fleetwood Town 3

Match 126/16/1433 - Saturday, 22nd April 2017 - League Cup One

Gillingham (1) 2 Cairns (o.g.) 38 Donnelly 65
Fleetwood Town (0) 3 Hunter 54 Ball 80 Dempsey 90+1
Attendance: 8,760

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 58/8,619

Match Report

All eyes turn to Walsall on Tuesday evening with the hope that they can save Gillingham from relegation by beating Port Vale, because the Gills sure as hell are not going to do it by their own volition.

In his post-match interview Adie Pennock stated that he thought "they had played well against a good side and gave a good account of ourselves." Really? Not from where I was sitting. The first 45 minutes are not going to be 45 minutes that I'm given back anytime soon, even given the own goal that had given his side the lead.

If his side has deceived my eyes and played well then the result lays squarely on Pennock's shoulders. It was his substitution of Cody McDonald, that brought derision from the home support, presumably to preserve the 2-1 lead, but within 30 seconds that lead had disappeared.

As the game entered its final throes, Pennock, once again, going for preservation, replaced the sponsor's man of the match, Lee Martin and the goalscorer, Rory Donnelly and in the first minute of time added, four passes, each one played into Fleetwood players with time and space, cut open the Gillingham defence to score the winner. Football Genius ... I think not.

The club had done its best to create a last day atmosphere by flooding the Medway Towns with free tickets by the handful shoved through the letterboxes. But to create an atmosphere you need people to be excited by what they are watching and those new to Priestfield must have wondered if they would have been better off at home watching their paint dry.

But, they were given an unexpected moment to cheer when after 38 minutes a corner from Martin was headed against a post by Zesh Rehman with the rebound crossing the line off the back of the Cod goalkeeper, Alex Cairns.

The lead was to last 10 minutes into the second half when a shot from 25 yards by Ashley Hunter that left Tomas Holy rooted to the spot.

Holy was, once more, a mere spectator as a shot across the face of goal from Bobby Grant struck a post.

Gillingham were back in front after 65 minutes. A free kick, awarded for a foul on McDonald on the edge of the box, was shot low through the wall and found the net via the far post.

Jake Hessenthaler smacked a shot against a post and the finishing line, and safety, was within sight and Priestfield responded accordingly but they were stunned into silence when with 10 minutes remaining a free kick was headed on and David Ball had the freedom to volley into the net.

With a little game management, a draw would have been a good result with Port Vale losing at home to Bolton, but Gillingham conspired to throw away the points when Fleetwood played their way through non-existent challenges to leave Kyle with a tap in from the centre of the goal.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 2 Whitehawk U18 3

Match 125/16/1432 - Thursday, 20th April 2017 - Ryman Youth League Cup Final

Tonbridge Angels U18 (1) 2 Smith 8 Chapman 59
Whitehawk U18 (2) 3 Sisimayi 35 Coltherd-Walls 44 Broughton 49
Attendance: 123
Played at Whyteleafe FC

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 86/8,561

Tonbridge’s Under-18s fell agonisingly short in the Lucas Fettes Ryman Youth League Cup Final at Whyteleafe losing to Whitehawk, who completed a treble having previously won the South Division of the League by a clear eight points and the Sussex Youth Cup.

The suspensions of their talismanic striker Sid Sollis and goalkeeper, Lewis Mitchell proved to be a burden too heavy to carry but they fought to finish with a rally that had the well-organised Sussex side defending for their lives.

Henry Ikeije tested the Whitehawk goalkeeper, Jordan Hawkins with a comfortable save in the opening minute before Whitehawk took the ascendancy in the opening period including having a goal disallowed for offside when Anesu Sisimayi’s header found the net.

However, it was the Angels that took the lead after eight minutes when a cross from Tommy Chapman picked out Liam Smith on the right hand angle of the six yard box who struck a ferocious shot into the far corner of the net.

The game took on a cagey stage following the opening goal with neither side registering a shot on target for the best part of 30 minutes.

Whitehawk equalised after 35 minutes when Tonbridge were caught out by a quickly taken free kick that allowed George Coltherd-Walls to cross for Sisimayi to head home.

A minute before the break Whitehawk scored a second goal when a shot from outside of the box by Billy Barker was parried, low to his left, by Henry Lovering but only into the path of Coltherd-Walls who was left with the easy chance of slotting into an unguarded goal.

After just four minutes of the second period, the Angels were left with a mountainous task when Lewis Broughton, the Whitehawk left back, surged to the edge of the box and fired in a shot that Lovering could only help into the net.

With the supporters that had made the journey to Surrey urging their side to keep their heads up, the Angels fought back and were unlucky when a shot from Connor Watson was brilliantly cleared from the line.

Just before the hour mark, Tonbridge were right back in the game when a defence splitting pass from Watson sent Chapman clear to finish clinically from the left hand side of the box.

Liam Smith, who had been switched to left back, following the substitution of the injured Jardell Conteh, did well to clear from the line to keep the Angels in contention.

In the final ten minutes, the Angels poured forward to find the equaliser with skipper, Callum Adonis-Taylor joining the attack as the Tonbridge coaching staff gambled with leaving three at the back.

As it was, Whitehawk stood firm, with Adonis-Taylor firing over the best opportunity of the period whilst Lovering produced a good save to deny Coltherd-Walls.

There was a massive consolation on the night when news came that Merstham had been held at home by Ashford in their final league match leaving the Angels with the opportunity to win the East Division with a victory over Kingstonian at Banstead next Thursday.

Action shots: Dave Couldridge

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Charlton Athletic 3 Gillingham 0

Match 124/16/1431 - Monday, 17th April 2017 - League One

Charlton Athletic (2) 3 Pearce 20 Holmes 31 Mageness 54
Gillingham (0) 0
Attendance: 12,449

Entrance: £20 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 82/8,475

Match Report

An Easter Monday afternoon that began with a large Gillingham following amounting to over 2,000 fans buoyed by Saturday's win against Bristol Rovers ended with abusive songs being sung at their own team and ugly confrontations with a player.

Gillingham won't go down, almost unbelievably there are four teams who, if they are not worse, are in a more parlous position than the Kent side. Famous last words, with that horrible afternoon at Wycombe in 2010 serving as a powerful reminder that the worst can happen and with Justin Edinburgh waiting to inflict revenge on his former employer.

Simply put, Gillingham cannot defend and that is the principle reason why they are in the position they are. In the opening 20 minutes of this game they were more than the equal of their south London hosts, but abject defending saw Jason Pearce score with a free header inside the six yard box following a corner from Ricky Holmes, the best player on the pitch.

Ten minutes later, with a free kick conceded on the edge of the box, Holmes' shot found its way through the wall and between the diving Tomas Holy and his right hand post leaving the Gills with an uphill task that was never going to be completed.

The ineffectual Bournemouth loan pair of Joe Quigley snd Harry Connick were replaced during the break but when, early in the second half, the Gillingham defence was cut to shreds leaving Josh Mageness to sweep the ball home from close range there was to be no comeback and the Gillingham support quickly turned against their team.

Nobody likes to hear abuse being heaped on their own team, but the supporters frustration is easily understood. This has been a dire season with the change in managership not supplying the usual new regime bounce. Too many players are just not good enough with others that might have the necessary quality not playing for this manager or the last.

In my humble opinion, whether Pennock retains the job or not, the coach next season should be handed a blank sheet of paper and told to start again. Josh Wright, who is undoubtedly the player of the season, is being sought by higher level clubs and, if we learn anything from the Bradley Dack scenario, it is that heads get turned. As for Dack, he can go and sulk somewhere else.

I've never been as close as I am now to not renewing my season ticket. Two games remain for my enthusiasm to be rekindled sufficiently to hand over my money.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Tonbridge 1 AFC Sudbury 0

Match 123/16/1430 - Saturday, 15th April 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 1 Elder 78
AFC Sudbury (0) 0
Attendance: 554

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/8,393

The opening 45 minutes of this game was played in an almost funereal atmosphere as, supporters and players alike, at Longmead seemed to be suffering a collective hangover from Wednesday evening's Cup Final debacle.

AFC Sudbury arrived in Kent in their own last chance saloon as relegation would be confirmed by defeat at Tonbridge.

The Angels opened the game on the front foot, Nick Wheeler had a shot at the goalkeeper and a surging run from full back Ugo Udoji ended with a shot that was wide. But, it was to be another half-hour before the home side was to register a shot on goal, in the intervening time it was Sudbury who took the game to their hosts. Sam Corcoran shot narrowly wide and Jonny Henly made three saves to deny Liam Wales and two headers from Adam Tann before Vas Karagiannis finally ended the shot drought.

The second half took on a different look as Tonbridge finally found a way of getting Wheeler in the game. Alex Akrofi did well to send Wheeler on his way and his cross found the head of Nathan Elder whose goalbound header was brilliantly saved by Marcus Garnham.

Normal service had been duly resumed on the Wheeler/Elder partnership as Wheeler fed the big man with crosses that he headed over in the 55th minute and wide five minutes later.

There was a sense of inevitability that the partnership would eventually break down the Sudbury defence and it finally came 12 minutes from time when Elder headed home Wheeler's free kick from close range.

As the hosts failed to find a second goal, Sudbury seeing the trap door opening before their eyes threw their goalkeeper forward for their last corner kick. Nothing came of it and their one season stay in the Ryman Premier was ended.

For Tonbridge the last chance saloon stays open for another day, this time in Folkestone, for whom a relegation place alongside Sudbury looms large.

Pictures: Dave Couldridge

Gillingham 3 Bristol Rovers 1

Match 122/16/1429 - Friday, 14th April 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 3 Wright 64 McDonald 90,90+5
Bristol Rovers (0) 1 Bodin 73 (pen)
Attendance: 5,916

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/8,355

Match Report

There is still work to do but the manner in which this win was celebrated, on and off the pitch, suggested that avoidance of the drop was within touching distance. Although Bristol Rovers arrived with their own play-off aspirations this was considered by most to be the most winnable of Gillingham's remaining fixtures.

Those were the stakes for a must win game and, given a draw would suit neither team, a cagey first half ensued with neither side wanting to be chasing the game in the second period.

For the purist, and Gillingham supporters in particular, the quality of the game was poor with the home side doing what they have done all season, giving the ball away with careless abandon.

From the outset of the second half the game opened up with both sides in search of the vital victory. Both sides had chances, Josh Wright shot wide after being set-up by the hard-working Cody McDonald and, for the visitors, Billy Bodin wasted a chance dragging a shot hopelessly wide after being sent clear.

Gillingham took the lead on 64 minutes when, following a long throw by Mark Byrne, the ball fell to Wright who lashed it home from the edge of the six yard box.

Synonymous with Gillingham's season and their absolute inability to keep a clean sheet, Bristol Rovers equalised within 10 minutes via an awful bit of defending from Deji Oshilaja, who needlessly dragged Tom Lockyer to the ground just inside the box on the right hand side. Bodin converted from the spot with a shot straight down the middle.

The vital win went the way of the home side as the game entered the final minute of normal time. A huge kick through the centre from Gillingham's goalkeeper, Tomas Holy, found McDonald surrounded by two towering Rovers defenders. The striker wriggled his way clear and from the right hand side of the box unleashed a ferocious shot that rocketed into the top corner between Joe Lumley and his near post.

Route One was repeated in the final seconds of the match when a ball over the top was seized upon by McDonald who ran on to lob the advancing Lumley to celebrate with his manager who had sped down the touchline to hail his striker.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Tonbridge 3 Billericay Town 8

Match 121/16/1428 - Wednesday, 12th April 2017 - Ryman League Cup Final

Tonbridge (1) 3 McCollin 4,90 Konchesky 51 (o.g.)
Billericay Town (4) 8 Robinson 10, Bricknell 29,38,45 Cunnington 47,62 Lawrence 55 Krasniqi 80
Attendance: 653

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 94/8,297

Match Report

Embarrassed, humiliated and shamed.

A place in a cup final, whether it is the FA Cup or the Tunbridge Wells Charity Cup, is to be cherished, an opportunity to be proud of your club whether you win or lose. All you have to do is turn up and give a good account of yourselves and supporters will forgive you virtually anything. You reached the Final, you tried your best but, unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough. The players of Tonbridge Angels failed to honour the faith of their supporters and only heaped embarrassment on around 300 people that had made the journey to Carshalton.

Nobody could have underestimated the size of the task that faced Tonbridge Angels. The high profile bankrolling of Billericay Town has seen Paul Konchesky, a former England international, drop four steps from League One; Jamie O'Hara making a similar journey and Jake Robinson leaving National South club Hemel Hempstead for an eye-watering £24,000. Each one rumoured to be earning around £3,000 a week. Remember, this is the Ryman Premier League!

That might have been the size of the task, but that is not a reason to raise the white flag.

The nature of the game to unfold was encapsulated in the opening three minutes. Billericay carved open the Tonbridge defence only to see Adam Cunnington fire wastefully over the crossbar and Tonbridge goalkeeper, Jonny Henley, saving low to his right from Billy Bricknell. Then, out of nowhere, Tonbridge took the lead. Luke Blewden, cutting in from the left, fired in a shot that was parried away by Jack Giddens into the path of Andre McCollin to finish from close range.

The joy was not to last. Henly made saves from Cunnington, Bricknell and Matt Johnson before Robinson cut in from the right hand side to angle a shot into the far corner after 10 minutes.

The tide was already one-way but the floodgates were beginning to open. For the next 20 minutes Billericay made too many chances to mention individually suffice to say that Henly was asked to make meaningful saves with the Essex side's strikers wasteful. But the breakthrough came just before the half-hour when Bricknell cut in from the left and fired in a shot that came back off the post to strike the back of the diving Henly and rebound into the goal. Technically, it was an own goal but given to Bricxknell on the night and as he went on to score a first half hat-trick no doubt he will claim it.

At this point, personally, I was offering up prayers of getting to half-time at just 2-1. There is no footballing god. A third goal came in the 38th minute when a cross from Robinson found Bricknell with time and space to drill an unstoppable half-volley past Henley. On the stroke of half-time it was four when Bricknell completed his hat-trick, Robinson once more supplying the pass for the striker to loop a shot with the aid of a deflection in off the post.

Steve McKimm shuffled the pack at half-time with Alex Akrofi on for Nathan Elder and Nicky Wheeler replacing Bradley Fortnum-Tomlinson. There was little left to play for but pride and a respectable scoreline, even this drifted away within a couple of minutes of the restart. A cross from the left was half-heartedly cleared to the feet of Cunnington who gratefully drove the ball back and into the centre of the goal.

For the next 45 minutes, I felt shell-shocked, just staring into the space that was the pitch but not really taking in what was going on. I've a feeling there were more than a few of the Tonbridge players doing much the same.

Billericay showed a charitable side when Akrofi crossed from the right and Konchesky inexplicably headed into his own net. The strange thing about this game was despite the devastating manner of their forward play they had shown a vulnerability at the back, something for them to work on in their cruise to next season's championship.

There was no let-up in the relentlessness of the orange shirts though and three minutes later normal service was resumed when a cross from Robinson was met by Byron Lawrence with a low shot into the bottom corner.

Six became seven when Cunnington found the top right hand corner just past the hour and fears of double figures were not without foundation. Thankfully, Billericay showed mercy and indulged in a display of keep ball and showboating that saw out 20-odd minutes without a goal.

Five minutes remained when Henly made two great saves but got no help from any of his defenders as the ball finally fell at the feet of substitute Kreshnic Krasnniqi to tuck home.

Tonbridge supporters, who had taken the humiliation with humour, had a final cheer when Tom Phipp's shot came back off a post for McCollin to tap in.

There was still time for O'Hara to attempt to inflict the final indignity when he shot from about 250 yards that, thankfully, drifted wide. O'Hara, who couldn't shift a muscle at Gillingham, showed throughout what you get for £3K a week, a figure beyond most of the Ryman Premier's entire squad budget.

Tonbridge's management were understandably damning of their players and it remains to be seen what sort of reaction will evolve from this embarrassing episode.

Team photo: Dave Couldridge

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Phoenix Sports Res 2 Glebe 3

Match 120/16/1427 - Tuesday, 11th April 2017 - SCEFL 1

Phoenix Sports Reserves (1) 2 Cue 38 Malik 67 (pen)
Glebe (2) 3 Golding 3,10 King 83
Attendance: 50

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: With Entrance
Mileage: 95/8,203

Welcome to the world of the bracketed tick. I probably started groundhopping without really knowing it at about 10 years of age when a friend's Dad would take me to now extinct grounds like Ashford's Essella Park or Canterbury's Kingmead following Tonbridge. Groundhopping, it would seem, has now evolved into a pastime with a set of rules including the bracketed tick when visiting the tenants in a groundshare.

This, at least, was a bracketed tick with a difference as the groundsharer's are the landlords reserve side, Phoenix Sports Reserves who, with a minor piece of controversy, were given permission to compete in SCEFL 1.

A win for the evening's visitors, Glebe, would ensure their promotion to the SCEFL Premier League whilst still needing a point to clinch the championship.

Everything looked plain sailing for the Chislehurst-based club when Ryan Golding scored twice in the opening 10 minutes. His first, after two minutes, came when he converted a cross from the right with a shot that went in off the right hand post.

Golding doubled his tally when he headed home from a long throw leaving fears that Phoenix could be routed.

But credit to the home side as they recovered and were well worth their goal when Cue converted a cross from the right.

Into the second half, a good game ensued with both sides having chances. Glebe's central defender put a header against the left hand post before Phoenix found an equaliser after 66 minutes when Glebe's goalkeeper needlessly brought down the centre forward on the edge of the box for Ouani Malik to convert the penalty to level the score.

Aaron Jeffrey managed to scoop the ball over from two yards as Glebe sought the winner to confirm their promotion and this eventually came with nine minutes remaining when a free kick from the edge of the box was fired in by George King.

Glebe's goalkeeper redeemed himself with a good save low to his left to preserve their three points and to allow the celebrations to begin.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 1 Maidstone United U18 1

Match 119/16/1426 - Monday, 8th April 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Tonbridge Angels U18 (0) 1 Adonis-Taylor 57
Maidstone United U18 (1) 1 Warden 15
Attendance: 88

Entrance: £1 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/8,108

Tonbridge U18s had to settle for a draw from a match in which they deserved better with the result leaving Merstham needing to win just one of their remaining two games with Maidstone their visitors on Thursday.

Tonbridge dominated the game throughout but chances were very much at a premium.

Two early chances fell to Sid Sollis. The first came from a Jack Bray long throw that found the head of Sollis who was only able to direct it at the Maidstone goalkeeper, Nathan Akhlaq. A minute later, following a Tommy Chapman cross, the talismanic striker fired over.

It was against the run of play when the Stones took a 15th minute lead. A corner from the right was misjudged by Lewis Mitchell which handed the influential Sid Warden an easy header to open the scoring.

Gaining confidence from their goal, Dale Ashman forced Mitchell into a decent save low to his left before Sollis struck a shot from the left hand angle of six yard box against the far post.

On the half-hour, a fine cross from Chapman was met with a header from Jack Fenton that was touched onto the crossbar by Akhlaq.

The hosts began the second half where they left off with Bray having a shot blocked and Fenton dragging the rebound wide.

Tonbridge deserved a bit of luck and this they got after 57 minutes when Callum Adonis-Taylor overhit a cross from the right that completely deceived the Maidstone ‘keeper and sailed into the net.

The game became one-way traffic as the Angels searched for a winner. A marginal offside decision denied Sollis a goal that would have been a masterful piece of finishing where it not for the linesman’s flag.

Ultimately, for all their possession and further chances that fell to Sollis and Fenton and a last gasp effort from Adonis-Taylor that was cleared from the line by Warden, it was not to be for Tonbridge, leaving the way clear for Merstham’s title party.

Tonbridge still have their Ryman Under-18 League Cup against Whitehawk at Whyteleafe next Thursday to look forward to and they can be justifiably proud that they have been part of an intriguing three-way race for the title.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Gillingham 1 Millwall 1

Match 118/16/1425 - Saturday, 8th April 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Quigley 67
Millwall (0) 1 Morison 72
Attendance: 7,221

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/8,070

Match Report

Gillingham’s chances of avoiding the drop to League Two look ever more desperate with every game that gets added to a sequence, now standing at five games without a win. At least this home draw against play-off chasing neighbours Millwall was a spirited effort, something that was lacking in their last couple of Priestfield appearances.

Millwall’s support packed out the Brian Moore Stand which at least pended itself to a much improved atmosphere at both ends of the ground as Gillingham’s vocal support found their voices.

Ultimately, it was a lack of quality from both sides that determined that the points were shared, a scenario that did little for either side’s differing ambitions. There was plenty of effort, some rough and tumble that is expected of a derby but neither side had a single player that would take the game by the scruff of the neck and prove the difference.

Millwall stretched Tomas Holy to a couple of saves that were comfortable but looked good for the camera, whilst at the other end, the home side despite having the better of the possession failed to ask anything of Tom King.

After much of the same for the first 20 minutes of the second half, Gillingham took the lead. King disputed that he had carried the ball over the line to concede a corner but from the resultant place kick the ball found its way to the far post from where Joe Quigley hooked home to delight the Rainham End.

Millwall should really have equalised within two minutes when Lee Gregory rounded Holy but then got his own feet in a tangle and scuffed his shot wide.

However the lead was only to last five minutes when a shot from Jed Wallace brought a good save from Holy but was only pushed into the path of Steve Morison who from the right hand angle of the six yard box into the far corner of the net.

A Morison header that went tamely wide was as close as it got to finding a winner.

I’m guessing that a win and a draw from their final two home games against Bristol Rovers and Fleetwood Town might just about be enough. The quality in the squad isn’t going to change overnight, hopefully the spirit shown will prove enough to see them over the line.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

K Sports 0 Glebe 2

Match 117/16/1424 - Tuesday, 4th April 2017 - SCEFL 1

K Sports (0) 0
Glebe (0) 2 Jeffery 51, Golding 54
Attendance: 112

Entrance: £2.50 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 40/8,012

Match Report

At Rusthall a couple of weeks back and in the first half of this match at K Sports, I failed to see what has taken Glebe to the cusp of promotion, as champions, to the SCEFL Premier. In the second half, I finally got it.

On their own admittance, at Jockey Farm, Glebe's overriding intention was not to lose the game and, perhaps, there was a similar mindset here at Cobdown, but once Aaron Jeffery had fired them into an early second half lead, quickly followed by Ryan Golding's sure-fire finish, there was to be only one winner as Glebe marched on to the summit of the table.

The first half was a real stalemate with neither side creating much in the way of genuine chances and nothing much in terms of eye-catching football.

K Sports' central defender Liam Dawson brought a good save out of Adam Molloy with a header following a cross from the right after eight minutes and Caine Smith blasted over the crossbar two minutes later as the home side started on the front foot.

Glebe created a couple of half-chances with Joe Cullip saving at the feet of Andre Tobon whilst Ryan Golding hit a long shot that sailed high into the night sky.

Six minutes into the second half, Glebe opened the scoring following a cross from the left by George King which was headed against the crossbar at the far post by Jamal Alexander with the rebound being tucked away by Aaron Jeffery.

Within a couple of minutes, Glebe virtually wrapped up the game when a cross from Alexander was only partially cleared to the feet of Golding, who showed he had not lost any of his predatory instinct with a firm shot that gave Cullip no chance.

To K Sports credit they kept going forward and Gabriel Luckhurst forced Molloy into a low save, diving to his left. But the game ended as a contest when K Sports' young defender, Jack Salisbury, collected a second yellow card to sentence him to forlornly watch the remainder of the game from behind the perimeter fencing.

Nearly everything, I understand the changing rooms need to be closer to the pitch, is in place for the Ditton-based club to have a real tilt at promotion next season. I have watched football played on three Ryman Premier 3G pitches in recent weeks at Worthing, Harlow and Hendon and, in my opinion, this pitch is vastly superior to all of them.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 4 Kingstonian U18 2

Match 116/16/1423 - Monday, 3rd April 2017 - Ryman Youth

Tonbridge Angels U18 (1) 4 Sollis 41 Ghali 50,79 Fenton 57
Kingstonian U18 (0) 2 Curtis 54,87
Attendance: 48

Entrance: £1 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/7,972

For a second consecutive game, Tonbridge Under-18s had to play for 45 minutes without a regular goalkeeper after Lewis Mitchell sustained an injury in the 36th minute. He soldiered on until the break but didn’t appear for the second half with Louis Pateman taking over between the sticks.

Kingstonian provided much sterner opposition than their lowly league position suggested they would and a competitive first half ensued. Chances were very much at a premium as Tonbridge struggled to get going, much to the credit of the Kingstonian back line that were well organised.

It took a full half-hour for the Kingstonian goalkeeper to be tested but Matthew Allison was up to the task touching over the bar an effort from Sid Sollis.

Sollis, who had a frustrating first half-hour in which his touch was unusually heavy and was missing the pin-point delivery of an absent Tommy Chapman, came to life with a shot from 40 yards that didn’t trouble Allison but seemed to provide the spark that ignited his evening.

After 36 minutes a pass through the centre of the Tonbridge defence sent Orlando George chasing a 50/50 ball with Mitchell diving at his feet. The subsequent collision left the goalkeeper with an injured leg from which he ultimately substituted.

In the first minute of first half added time, Sollis, from wide on the left hand side and about 35 yards out produced a shot that whistled past Allison and into the net.

Mitchell’s substitution introduced Ziyad Ghali and the young striker was on the score sheet within five minutes. A shot from 20 yards from Sollis came back off the underside of the crossbar and Ghali was on hand to nod home the rebound.

Kingstonian were back in the game quickly when a shot from George from 25 yards was too much for Pateman but, within two minutes, Tonbridge had restored their two goal advantage when a free kick from Liam McCreadie found the head of Jack Bray whose effort was well saved by Ellison but the rebound was headed home by Jack Fenton.

The Tonbridge back line, with Bray dropping into the central defensive spot, did well to protect their goalkeeper limiting Kingstonian to a single shot that Pateman saved with his feet.

The game was made safe with a piece of individual brilliance by Ghali who left a couple of defenders in his wake before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting home.

Kingstonian added a second to the scoreline three minutes from time when George converted a cross from Kailen North to score from close range.

In injury time, Sollis cut in from the left and sent a shot agonisingly wide that would have been a delicious icing on the cake.

Manager Billy Thornton commented after the game that they made it hard for themselves in the first half but the second half performance showed the characters they have in the squad whilst accepting it wasn’t a great performance.

League leaders Merstham, as expected, won 9-2 at Raynes Park Vale to maintain their two point lead over the Angels. Third place Maidstone visit Longmead next Monday and also have Merstham to play in their run-in and they will have a big say in the destination of this close run title race.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Hendon 1 Tonbridge 2

Match 115/16/1422 - Saturday, 1st April 2017 - Ryman Premier

Hendon (1) 1 Ball 14 (pen)
Tonbridge (0) 2 Elder 68, McCollin 86
Attendance: 264

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 154/7,934
New Ground: 306

A couple of millimetres, a linesman's flag and Tonbridge's play-off hopes remain ... just.

I think it is generally accepted that Tonbridge might need to win each of the last five games to make the end-of-season lottery and given that one of those five is away to Havant any slip up elsewhere might prove to be fatal.

We are now at the point of the season where the pedantics of "must win" no longer apply. This was a must win and it applied to both clubs with Hendon desperately in need of the points in their quest to stay in Ryman Premier.

Tonbridge's newly-arrived loan signing Vas Karagiannis, from Maidstone, went straight into the starting line-up whilst the returning Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson had to be content with a place on the bench.

For the vast majority of Tonbridge supporters this was a new ground, although one or two might well have visited on a groundhop when Silver Jubilee Park was habited by Kingsbury Town or Edgware. They found a traditional old stand with loads of wooden uprights obscuring the vision but it had some character unlike the Atcost structures that adorned the other three sides. It seemed at odds to have a 3G pitch that significantly sloped but it at least had a more natural bounce than the one at Harlow.

The opening stages were fairly cagey with the home side having an early free kick that was sent over the crossbar by the influential Matt Ball whilst the visitors employed the home goalkeeper, Tom Lovelock, who comfortably dealt with a shot from Nick Wheeler and a header from Sonny Miles.

However it was the home side that went ahead after 14 minutes when an innocuous challenge from Jack Parter downed Reis Stanislous resulting in the referee pointing to the spot. From a distance of 75 yards it was difficult to judge whether the decision was a good one, but the position of the foul just inside the 18 yard box begged the question as to whether the challenge needed to be made at all. Ball sent Jonny Henley the wrong way to put the hosts into the lead.

Lovelock saved well at his near post to deny Karagiannis and from the resultant corner Miles headed wide as Tonbridge responded positively from the setback.

Nathan Elder failed to get a shot away when in front of goal and with Wheeler supplying a succession of crosses the visitors where dominating in terms of possession and chances made.

After 35 minutes, Henley made a good stop low to his left to deny Ball who had met Khale De Costa's cross.

The second half was progressing much the same as the first as Tonbridge were creating plenty of half chances whilst, on the break, Hendon were also quite dangerous.

After 66 minutes, Steve McKimm decided to shuffle his pack bringing on Andre McCollin for Alex Akrofi and within a minute the Angels were level. A cross from the right from Karagiannis was bundled, scuffed, choose the phrase you like (!) past Lovelock to give Tonbridge parity that they certainly deserved.

A draw was certainly of no use to Tonbridge and probably was not Hendon's requirement so McKimm went for the win introducing Luke Blewden for Luke Allen after 67 minutes. Lovelock made a fine, diving stop to save from McCollin and a shot from Parter was deflected against a post and back into the hands of the goalkeeper.

Hendon introduced their Guyanian international, Marcel Barrington, who brought a save out of Henley and also shot wide in a matter of moments.

One last throw of the dice from McKimm brought a goal fashioned entirely from the bench after Dan Thompson came on for Elder. Blewden won a vital challenge to feed a pass to the edge of the box from where Thompson created space to cross for McCollin to stab the ball wide of Lovelock whose save was a millimetre or two too late as the linesman's flag signalled the goal.

Henley made his only handling error of the afternoon in injury time when he spilt a shot from Da Costa but recovered quickly to reclaim the ball. Barrington tested the Tonbridge man one more time but he was equal to the task and the vital three points were on their way back to Kent.

Pictures below from Dave Couldridge and Kathryn Bell